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Will Democrats Sell Your Political Opinions to Credit Card Companies?

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Posted on Feb 5, 2013
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By Lois Beckett, ProPublica

(Page 2)

If a company decides it wants to share personal information in a new way, Obama suggested, it should notify the consumers who are affected and provide them with choices about how their data is used. 

Although Obama pledged to work with Congress to make the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights into law, that hasn’t happened yet. 

Joseph Turow, a privacy expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, said the possibility that Democrats might repurpose voters’ opinions for commercial marketing is problematic — particularly because they had collected that information through “a relationship of trust” with voters. 

Both Democrats and Republicans have long traded information about voters’ opinions with outside political groups. Long-time Republican activists have created a new group, the Data Trust, to manage the Republican National Committee’s data and coordinate data exchanges between the RNC and conservative and issue advocacy groups. 

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Asked if the Republican Party sells the party’s proprietary data to retailers or credit card companies, RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowsi wrote, “Absolutely not — hasn’t happened in past and won’t in [the] future.” 

The Obama campaign’s own closely guarded trove of voter information will be used to mobilize support for the president’s agenda through a new nonprofit advocacy group, Organizing for Action, led by top Obama aides. 

It’s not clear what other groups may be given access to Obama’s voter data. Organizing for Action did not respond to a request for comment. Staffers have said that passing on the campaign’s voter information to an Obama-focused nonprofit reflects the wishes of the president’s supporters, although supporters were not asked directly about how the campaign should treat their data. 

Sandstrom, the lawyer for the state Democratic parties’ National Voter File Co-op, said he doubted the co-op would actually end up selling voters’ opinions for commercial uses, calling it an “abstract concern.” 

Democratic Party chairs were not eager to weigh in on the issue. 

Last week, ProPublica contacted 11 Democratic state party chairs — some of them newly elected to their positions — about the National Voter File Co-op. Party chairs in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin declined or did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

New Hampshire Democratic chair Ray Buckley, who leads the Association of State Democratic Chairs, also declined to comment. 

 


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